Wil Wever is a Dutch leatherman from Aruba, known all over the American and European fetish scenes for his big heart and queer activism. Personally, he prefers the term ‘gaymous’ over famous, because once he leaves a fetish event: “No one knows who I am.”
WINGS caught up with Wil, who moved from New York City to Austin, Texas, in 2019. Why did he leave one of the most liberal cities in the world to live in a state notorious for being super conservative? How did he come up with the idea for the Austin Kink Weekend? And what’s his take on the current LGBTQ+ rights attacks in America? Read on, and find out!
Wil, you’ve lived in a lot of different places over the years. Can you tell us in a nutshell how you ended up in The United States?
“I was born and raised in Aruba. After high school, I wanted to become a chef. My mom and my grandmother were both sick at the time, so I decided to go to culinary school in Miami, which is ‘just’ a 2.5-hour flight from home. One night, I got drunk with a friend, entered the Green Card Lottery for fun , and to my surprise, a lawyer called me the next day, to tell me I would get one.
I stayed in Miami until I was 28. A big Japanese restaurant chain, owned by Robert De Niro, hired me. They wanted me to move to New York to open one of their new restaurants. That’s how I ended up in Manhattan. I had just gotten out of a heterosexual relationship, and I always felt that I was gay. Suddenly, I found myself in the gay neighbourhood of New York. Everyone there was out and open, and they embraced me. I flew out of the closet like a rocket ship. The minute I walked into Stonewall, my life changed.”
Can you give us a small taste of the changes you went through?
“I kept working in the restaurant business for a while, and opened three more restaurants, but the whole thing became too corporate for me. I literally left that job overnight at 2 am, to enjoy my sexual freedom and live out my kinks. Instead of managing projects, I became a masseur, and a go-go dancer at The Eagle Bar. I went from suit and tie to jockstraps and harnesses. To this day, I still work as a masseur and as an erotic masseur.”
Why did you move to Austin, the Capital of Texas, after having lived in New York for nearly two decades?
“I moved to Austin after Trump became President. I wanted to be there and be able to vote. I wanted to live in a conservative state and wear leather gear every single time I went to a bar. I wanted to be open about sexual health, show people on social media that I’m swabbing for gonorrhoea, and that you shouldn’t be discrete about any of these things. As a sex worker, I’m the opposite of being a conservative. It works. People see me wearing leather gear on the streets, and they follow suit. Daniel Dumont messaged me when I arrived in Austin: ‘I don’t understand why you left Manhattan for Texas, but I’m sure you’ll find millions of gays to educate.’ And he was right. That’s what I wanted to do!”
It should be clear from what you’ve just shared, that you’re quite the activist. You’re also on the Board of Directors of the ASHwell Clinic in Austin. What’s your mission?
“ASHwell started at the height of the HIV Crisis in the eighties. We focus on sexual health and medical support. The clinic offers free PrEP, HIV treatment, and peer support. We are one of the few clinics in the country that offer Hepatitis C treatment without requiring people to be sober. We also take care of transgender people living in Texas, offering them free gender-affirming medical care.”
What are your kinks and fetishes?
“Leather is my first fetish. As a teen, I was obsessed with it. I grew up with pictures of James Dean and Marlon Brando dressed in leather, and I wanted to be like that. I remember the very first time I took the saddle of a horse when I went horseback riding. Even the smell of that saddle turned me on; it was fucking hot.
Years ago, I dated this couple from Amsterdam for a while, and they told me about the Mister B Store. Johan put me in my first leather pants. That was it! After that, I went exploring. I found out that I’m into fisting, impact play, and I love giving erotic massages. It’s really sexy to turn someone on for an hour. What I’m into depends on the chemistry. I decided for myself that it’s only kinky the first time, then it becomes normal.”
Why does leather appeal to you so much?
“In the beginning, it was the smell, the feel, and how it holds you. Putting on a leather jacket and Muir cap and wearing them in public felt empowering. I had been in the closet until the end of my twenties. Wearing leather made me feel I wasn’t hiding anymore. I felt free and one hundred percent myself. Leather to me, is about visibility, showing your true self, and being brave.”
You’re a longtime leatherman. You’ve lived in Europe and The United States. What’s the biggest difference between the European and American fetish scenes in your opinion?
“In America, we’re sexually suppressed. We don’t have sex saunas, basement darkrooms, or sex parties all year round. When I went to Mid-Atlantic Leather in Washington DC for the first time, it was all about setting up slings, and having as much sex as possible, because you’re going to go home tomorrow, and then the sex will stop. Everyone is horny, and they need to release that sexual energy.
The first time I experienced the European fetish scene, was when I went to Folsom Berlin. I met more people there in one single weekend, folks that I’m still in contact with, than at any American event. Europeans fuck all the time, so they focus more on the social aspect during fetish events. I’ve noticed that things have changed in America after COVID. We seem to have a bigger need for human connection as well.”
What was the kink scene like in Austin when you arrived in town? How has it changed?
“Austin had one of the longest gear nights in America, which still exists. Many people would park their car, go inside the bar, take off their clothes, put on their harnesses and underwear, and at the end of the evening, they would put their civilian clothing back on, and drive off into the night.
That’s not how I roll. I’m used to walking the streets in my leather gear. Making sure that every fucking person knows I exist! When our local bar moved to a new location, I told a bunch of pups to come with me to the first gear night at the new venue, thinking I would meet them at the bar. I told them to meet me six blocks away with their hoods and leashes. I walked them through town, on a leash, in front of all the straight people, while wearing a cowboy hat and smoking a cigar. Just so they could experience what it’s like to be visible.”
Together with your friend Luis Bratt, the owner of the fetish store Sir Rat Leather & Gear, you came up with the idea for the Austin Kink Weekend, which had its second edition last April. Tell us about this new event!
“One day, I was telling Luis about one of my trips to Amsterdam. I told him that I went to this festival called Milkshake which changed my life. Everyone was welcome there, no matter their gender or sexuality. It was beautiful. The following year, I was invited to go to Darklands which had a big impact on me as well. I walked around the city centre of Antwerp with hundreds of people in gear, thinking, this is incredible!
Luis and I came up with the idea for an event that mixes and celebrates gender and fetish: the Austin Kink Weekend. They call Austin ‘the weird city’, and we thought it would be the perfect place for an event like this. We’re surrounded by the Bible Belt, but once you’re in town, everyone can be themselves. We sold out this year. Seven hundred people attended. I love that we focus on welcoming everyone. Every picture we share on our socials, and every poster showcases diversity. I don’t want to feature people that look like me; bearded, white, leather guys. I want to see an older black person, a trans woman, a trans man, non-binary folks; and that was exactly what the Austin Kink Weekend was.”
What’s your favorite memory from the Austin Kink Weekend?
“Opening night. A few months before the event, I created a Facebook group, and I invited everyone who was attending. We asked them to tell us about themselves and to upload a pic. I wanted them to interact, so they would know each other once they met in person. When I arrived at the opening night, I waited on the sidewalk. I observed the attendees for a while. They were really excited to meet each other. A non-binary pup from Los Angeles was hugging everyone. We had guys in full leather hugging and kissing trans people. Every color and race was represented. They were strangers, yet they weren’t. That was a special moment for me.”
Let’s talk politics. Queer rights are heavily under assault in America, targeting trans people and drag performers in particular. What’s your perspective on what’s happening right now?
“Before Obama left office in 2017, we marched for equality and marriage equality; things were great for some time. After that, the political landscape became really conservative. During the Trump presidency, people started using social media to create hate and spread lies. Today, abortion rights are under attack. Affirmative action has been rejected by the Supreme Court in colleges and universities. This year alone, we have 417 anti-LGBTQ+ bills proposed for law nationwide. Ten times as much as in 2018!
When I moved to Austin, I wanted to vote for candidates who work for our community, fight against racism, and stick up for women’s rights. Conservative religions shouldn’t be involved in politics. Church and State need to be separated. We need to stop voting for politicians who are passing all these hateful bills. Living in New York in the nineties and early two thousand made me aware of these things. Being political is part of the queer culture there. I join protests in our Capitol wearing leather gear. I hope that by being visible, I will inspire others to take action. I don’t consider myself an activist. I see myself more as a catalyst. It’s important for me to be there. To support families with trans children being ripped apart by these bills, and to protect them during these protests. These families are the real heroes.”
You urge Texans who oppose these bills to take action and ‘drop a card’, can you explain to us what that means?
“It means you officially protest a specific piece of legislation at the Texas Capitol. We dropped 700 cards against a bill that opposes gender-affirming care. The other side dropped 10 cards; still, conservatives signed the bill into law. By creating a paper trail of so many folks opposing these bills, we can take these lawmakers to court. The situation is out of control. That’s why I decided to take action. I couldn’t be this masculine, white guy who doesn’t have a problem. My friendships aren’t based on genitals or gender. I’m nice to people because I like them, not because they’re like me, or because I want to fuck them. My activism comes from a place of love! I’m all about bringing people together, just like we did at the Austin Kink Weekend.”
Is there anything else you want to share with our readers?
“I want to urge everyone in the fetish scene, whether you are in America or Europe, to read the news, and see what’s actually happening. Don’t believe the lies you read about drag queens and trans people on social media. Make sure that what’s happening in America doesn’t become a reality in Europe. Get together. Be involved. Stop complaining about there being too many letters in LGBTQ+. See what you have in common and take care of each other. That’s the only way to stop this!”